A simple and fast method, using solid sampling electrothermal vapourization inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectrometry (ETV-ICP-OES), was developed to determine the distribution of elements in clay separates and soil samples from across the Talbot Lake VMS Cu-Zn prospect, in the Flin Flon-Snow Lake terrane, Manitoba, Canada in order to locate the undercover ore deposit, which is buried under Palaeozoic dolomites and Quaternary till. In the development of the method, the mass of sample, the mass of carrier agent (polytetrafluoroethylene, PTFE) or flow rate of reactant gas (dichlorodifluoromethane (R12)), the carrier and bypass gas flow rates and the temperature program were optimised. Under optimal conditions and with a four-step ETV temperature program, the distribution of the pathfinder elements (Zn, P, S and I) in clay separates and soils showed clear anomalies at 400 and 650 m. The results for Zn and P are in very good agreement with results obtained, following aqua regia (AR) digestion, by ICP mass spectrometry (ICP-MS) by Anglo American Exploration Division (AA-ED). Moreover, the distributions of S and I could be precisely determined (these elements were not reported in the AA-ED study). Using 0–4 mg of AA-ED S5 standard mixed with 2 mg PTFE or with 4.1 ml/min R12 as reactant gas, and using internal standardisation with an argon emission line, calibration curves were obtained that, when applied to Talbot clay separates and soil samples, yielded Zn, S and P concentrations in agreement with AR-ICP-MS results previously obtained by AA-ED. Hence, ETV-ICP-OES completely eliminates the need for clay separation and for extraction or digestion of samples prior to analysis, which significantly simplifies the analysis of geochemical exploration samples.

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